Friday, November 22, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Isle of Skye 8 year old & 12 year old

Isle of Skye 8 Year Old

Whisky Type: Blended Scotch Whisky

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Notes: This is a blend I picked up on the spur of the moment. I was looking for something to take along on a road trip vacation. My daughter was about to finish a semester interning at a family resort best known for it's large rodent mascot, and my wife and I were going to spend a week down there on vacation before bringing her back home. I needed something with a secure top, that would travel well on a long road trip. I was browsing the racks at a local wine and sprits store and found this, bargain priced at under $25, and decided it was worth a chance. Not only did it survive a trip to Florida and back, but it was so good that it's become a regular staple in my home bar. 

Isle of Skye is a blend from Ian MacLeod Distillers Limited, owners of Glengoyone and Tamdhu distilleries, and a very diverse portfolio of independent bottlings and blends, including Smokehead Single Malt and the well known Chieftain's Range, just to name a few. 

Isle of Skye 8 year old Blended Scotch Whisky, is a whisky that reminds me of older bottling's of Johnnie Walker! It's got a kick of oily and peppery peat, likely coming from Caol Ila, and Talisker (the only distillery on the Ilse of Skye). It's also got some nice Speyside and/or Highland malts in the mix, with a strong profile of Bourbon cask Scotch whiskies in the blend, giving off notes of honey and vanilla. This is a really tasty blend, with decent complexity and a strong malt heavy character! 

Nose: This first thing you notice, is the Bourbon notes of honey and vanilla, then the peat and a hint of pepper follow. 

Taste: This is where the complexity comes though, with dark chocolate and vanilla, some almond, peat and spice all competing for attention, without distracting or overpowering each other. 

Finish: The almond ultimately wins, with a medium long finish, with a whiff of smoke and vanilla lingering on. 

My Personal Ranking 1-100: 84/100 (Blend Score)

Isle of Skye 12 Year Old

Whisky Type: Blended Scotch Whisky

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Notes: The 12 year old version of Isle of Skye has a very similar profile to the 8 year old, so the blend components are very similar, if not the same. The additional age seems to bring out some sherry notes that I didn't notice in the younger version. Maybe some sherry aged Glengoyne has been added to the blend? While I hate the overuse of the word smooth in whisky reviews, the additional 4 years of aging does bring that word to mind. This is a reasonably complex, smooth and integrated, malt heavy blend, at a very reasonable price. 

Nose: Notes of honey and vanilla again, some citrus notes, and the peat you would expect from a whisky carrying this name. 

Taste: A wonderful explosion of flavors, including dark chocolate, vanilla and carmel, ripe orange, smokey peat, and a hint of spice. 

Finish: A pleasant finish where the citrus and peat flavors linger. 

My Personal Ranking 1-100: 86/100 (Blend Score)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bowmore 12 Year Old

Whisky Type/Region: Single Malt Scotch Whisky/Islay 

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 40%

Notes:After my first exposure to peated whisky, with Talisker 10 went so well, I decided to try one from the isle of peated whiskies, Islay. My first pick was this Bowmore 12, and frankly, it was a bit of a disapointment. It had the peat I was looking for, but it was less integrated, with none of the harmony of flavors the Talisker had. It was complex enough, with many different tastes and smells to enjoy, but it didn't please the palate (at least my palate) like the Talsiker did, and the low ABV (40%) didn't help it at all! As I later learned, at this price range the younger 10 year olds from Ardbeg and Laphroaig are much more enjoyable! Coming back to this one again hasn't changed that opinion. I would recommend both of the aforementioned 10 year olds, over Bowmore 12, as a proper introduction to Islay's peated whiskies. Don't completely discount Bowmore though! More recently, I've tried other expressions in the Bowmore Range, with much better results!

Note: Both of the examples of Bowmore 12 I've tried, were pre Rachel Barrie taking over as Master Distiller. Now that she has had some time to oversee Bowmore's operation, this part of the Bowmore range might have improved from the two older bottlings I've tasted. When I see a bottle with the new packaging, I'll have to try this expression again.

Nose:Pretty standard ex-Bourbon cask honey, a lemony citrus, and bonfire smoke.

Taste: Smokey peat, baked apple, a little salty bite, then some allspice, pineapple and dark chocolate. 

Finish: The finish is long, with the chocolate and peat lingering.

My Personal Ranking: 80/100

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Angel's Envy Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson has passed away.

Lincoln Henderson, Master Distiller at Angel's Envy Bourbon
The Bourbon industry has lost another legend! Angel's Envy Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson died today.

This is the family's official announcement, by Mr. Henderson's son Wesley Henderson,

"Last night the world lost a national treasure, but to his family, Dad was simply "Dad". He was the kindest person I have ever known. He loved with all his heart, and without conditions. While we are saddened beyond words, there is joy in our hearts as he is now free from any suffering. As Dad was an eight year melanoma survivor, we knew this day would eventually come, but I would give anything for one more day.....I love you Dad."

Our condolences and prayers go out to the Henderson Family over their loss.

Plans to reopen Rosebank Distillery

Click on the link to read Peter Ranscombe's full story via The Scotsman: Mothballed Rosebank Distillery Set To Reopen.

More can be found on the plans to reopen Rosebank in this article from Drinks Business Review: Arran Brewery To Reopen Rosebank Distillery

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back to Booze School?

Classes include "Malt Whisky 101", "The History of Prohibition in America, a really bad idea", "Rum Runners, Pirates or Privateers?", "Vodka, it's not just made from Potatoes!", "Irish and American Whiskey, what is it about that (e) anyway?".

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Buffalo Trace (Elmer T. Lee Collectors Edition)

Whisky Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, American Whiskey

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 45%

Notes: Buffalo Trace Distillery has a long and storied past. About an hour drive east of Louisville Kentucky, it is located on the site of an ancient Buffalo crossing by the Kentucky River. Though the distillery has had many names (Old Stagg Distillery, Ancient Age Distillery) and many owners over the years, it was given it's current name after the Sazerac Company bought the distillery in 1992. It is the oldest continuously operating distillery in the US, and it was officially listed as a National Historic Landmark this year. 

The Buffalo Trace Distillery makes a wide range of Bourbons, from basic mixer brands, to some of the most prized names in the Whiskey business, names like Blanton's, Eagle Rare, and Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbons, George T. Stagg and Handcock's Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbons, Pappy Van Winkle and W.L. Weller Wheated Bourbons, and Sazerac and Tomas H. Handy Rye Whiskeys, just to name a few!

This review will cover the standard bearer for the company, Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, introduced in 1999. It is made from a proprietary mash bill of at least 51% corn, rye and malted barley, and aged in new charred oak barrels for 9 years. 25 to 30 barrels are hand selected and blended for bottling in batches. 

Nose: Honey, Wrigley's Spearmint, and orange peal.

Taste: Orange, cinnamon, and buttery vanilla cake batter.

Finish: Vanilla and a touch of butterscotch linger.

My Personal Ranking: 81/100

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Buffalo Trace Distillery Tour pictures

Buffalo Trace Distillery, recently named a National Historic Landmark.

The Buffalo statue in front of the Visitor's Center. The Distillery is located next to the Kentucky river, in a location that used to be an ancient buffalo crossing.

One of many brick and mortar warehouses. You can see the barrels in the open windows!

The Buffalo Trace Distillery water tower.

Another angle on the distillery's iconic water tower.

Those tracks aren't for trains, they're for rolling barrels in and out of the various warehouses. 

Another warehouse for aging barrels of whiskey. There are more barrels of whiskey aging in warehouses in Kentucky, than there are people living in the Bluegrass State! 

The curious barrels of experimental "Peated Malt" I saw during our tour. 

Banners hanging from the roof of the bottling house, listing just some of the awards this distillery has earned in recent years. 

Our knowledgeable tour guide. Oh to have the keys to this cabinet! There's some rare Bourbons in there that would be the envy of any whiskey collector, including rare bottles of Blanton's, Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare, and Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel. Sadly, Elmer's death was announced just days after our tour of this Distillery his hard work, dedication and innovation, made famous!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Old Whisky Ad - Celebrity Endorsement Edition #1

Sean Connery for Jim Beam Bourbon

Johnnie Walker's newest releases?

The Ron Burgundy Signature Edition "Brown Label".

Tapping into the Zombie Craze, the "Red/Dead Label", arriving just in time for Halloween. 

Lastly, the Star Wars "Dark Side" edition of the classic "Black Label".

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Maker's Mark (Red Seal)

Whisky Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, American Whiskey

Bottle Size: 750ml

Alcohol by Volume: 45%

Notes: Maker's Mark distillery is less than a hour drive south of Louisville Kentucky. Of the distilleries on the "Kentucky Bourbon Trail", it is a little out of the way, but well worth a visit. The distillery is listed as a National Historic Landmark, and it's park like grounds and Victorian era buildings make quite a positive impression on first time visitors! Taking the tour, you will find the guides are friendly, knowledgeable and humorous, making for a fun and informative time. One of the highlights of the tour is towards the end, where you get to hand dip a bottle of whisky into that now famous red wax!

Maker's Mark is one of the few distilleries to rotate their barrels to maintain consistency, which is understandable for a distillery that only makes two products. This review is on the standard bottling, also known as "Maker's Mark Red Seal". Maker's Mark is a Bourbon that uses wheat in place of the usual rye in it's mash bill, using a recipe developed by Pappy Van Winkle (of Buffalo Trace fame), of 70% corn, 16% wheat and 14% malted barley!

Nose: Vanilla, citrus, and some light floral notes..

Taste: Caramel, vanilla, and hints of cracked pepper and smoke.

Finish: Medium length, where the smoke and citrus linger.

My Personal Ranking 1-100: 83/100

Special Note: It's been asked more than once, do Bourbon Whisk(e)y reviews belong in a Malt-centric blog like this? My answer is Yes! Why? A small part of the mash bills of these classic American whiskeys, includes malted barley! That being said, this blog will primarily focus on whiskies with a higher malt content. This review, and another planned review on Buffalo Trace, the result of a recent trip through Kentucky's Bourbon Country, are exceptions to the rule, not a trend away from Malt Whisky reviews. 

Maker's Mark Distillery Tour pictures

The Maker's Mark Distillery, a National Historic Landmark.

Maker's Mark Distillery's park like grounds.

Maker's Mark Distillery's oldest warehouse.

Maker's Mark Distillery's creek (or "crik" as they say in Kentucky).

Maker's Mark Still House.

Stunning brass and copper Still Safes.

Beautiful craftsmanship.

Mash Tub #2.

One of several wooden fermentation tanks.

Maker's Mark Fermentation Room.

Exiting the Still House.

Victorian style architectural details.

The Labeling Room.

Pedestrian bridge across creek.

Old delivery wagon.

Malt Research Institute staff member (me) during the tour. 

Maker's Mark Tasting Room

A flight of Maker's Mark. Unaged, Red Wax Seal, and Maker's Mark 46.

Some of the Maker's Mark barrels, with Ambassador's plates. 
You can have your own name put on a barrel, by clicking the link to the Maker's Mark site and joining their "Embassy" for free, and becoming a Distillery Ambassador;

The Author's barrel plate. Scheduled to be bottled in 2018.

My daughter Caitlin, dipping her own 1/2 size bottle of Maker's Mark.